Q&A with Adam McVey, SNP leader of City of Edinburgh Council

Written by Staff reporter on 6 October 2017 in Inside Politics

Holyrood asks the new City of Edinburgh Council leader about his experience of the role so far

Adam McVey, Leader, City of Edinburgh Council - Image credit: City of Edinburgh Council

Why did you choose to become a council leader?

Adam McVey: I grew up in a working class area in the west of Scotland. The lack of equality of opportunity was a huge motivator for me to get into politics and try and change things. As council leader, I’m working hard to improve education, housing and spread economic benefit in all our communities and help everyone share in the success of our city.


Has being leader of the council been like what you expected so far?

AM: Leading the capital city is a big job and I’ve went in with my eyes open but the reality of living the role has still been a big adjustment. With my life consumed by the role, my chat is now pretty dull- unless you like chatting about local government!


How are you learning from your predecessor?

AM: Having worked with my predecessor, Andrew Burns, for five years in the council, I fully appreciated his willingness to be open and consensual in his politics. This is something I’ve tried to build on.


What are you aiming to do differently from the previous administration?

AM: Our city’s economy is in a very different place to the last five years. We expect a greater degree of growth in our economy and city itself. We want to meet that growing level of confidence with the ambition that the capital deserves. To get an Edinburgh as best as it can be will take bold decisions and we’ll aim for [that].


What key changes have you set your sights on achieving?

AM: Most urgently, our homelessness services need to be transformed in the city. We’ve set out plans for the biggest expansion in affordable homes in several generations but we also need to remove the dire necessity of using B&Bs to house people in need of temporary or emergency accommodation. We need a housing stock that meets the needs of our citizens and a homeless service that supports people into secure accommodation.


What are the biggest challenges you are expecting in your area over the next few years?

AM: Dealing with the growth of our city is the number one challenge we face, bigger than financial pressures or anything else. The pressure that growth could mean in terms of housing, transport and employment present issues that we need to deal with thoroughly.


How have you found it so far being in coalition? Is it a challenge to find common ground?

AM: Leading a minority coalition administration presents additional challenges but our programme for administration is progressive and ambitious and speaks to the aims or parties across the council chamber. In that sense there is a great deal of alignment in the objectives of all parties and finding a way forward on the issues so far has been fairly cooperative.


There is still a significant gender imbalance in councils. How would you encourage more women to become councillors?

AM: The biggest change we’ve made is in the atmosphere of our political group. Mutual respect and professionalism is the environment we’re fostering and in doing so, making it a far more attractive place for people to join. We’re also leading by example by pushing some of our fantastic women to the front to show off their talents and encourage other women to do the same.


If you were completely free to reform local government in Scotland, what would you change?

AM: The funding. Block grants are well meaning but ultimately fail to allow local authorities to set a revenue regime that’s right for their own economy and population. If councils raised (and kept) as close to 100 per cent of their expenditure as possible, they’d be more accountable and better run institutions.


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